Windows 3.1x was a major release of Microsoft Windows. Several editions were released between 1992 and 1994, succeeding Windows 3.0. This family of Windows can run in either Standard or 386 Enhanced memory modes. The exception is Windows for Workgroups 3.11, which can only be run in 386 Enhanced mode.
Windows 3.1 (originally codenamed Janus, of which two betas were published), released on April, 1992, includes a TrueType font system (and a set of highly legible fonts already installed), which effectively made Windows a serious desktop publishing platform for the first time. Similar functionality was available for Windows 3.0 through the Adobe Type Manager (ATM) font system from Adobe.
Windows 3.1 was designed to have a large degree of backward compatibility with older Windows platforms. As with Windows 3.0, version 3.1 had File Manager and Program Manager, but unlike all previous versions, Windows 3.1 and later support 32-bit disk access, can't run in real mode, and included Minesweeper instead of Reversi.
Windows 3.1x contains a color scheme named Hotdog Stand This color scheme contains bright hues of red, yellow and black. The color scheme was designed to help people with some degree of color blindness see text/graphics on the screen easier.
Microsoft released a Simplified Chinese version of Windows for the Chinese market. The updated system identified itself as Windows 3.2. The update was limited to this language version, as it fixed only issues related to the complex writing system of the Chinese language.
Windows 3.2 was generally sold by computer manufacturers with a ten disk version of MS-DOS that also had Simplified Chinese characters in basic output and some translated utilities.
Finally, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (originally codenamed Snowball) was released on 11 August 1993, and shipped in November 1993. It supported 32-bit file access, full 32-bit network redirectors, and the VCACHE.386 file cache, shared between them. The standard execution mode of the Windows kernel was discontinued in Windows for Workgroups 3.11.
A Winsock package was required to support TCP/IP networking in Windows 3.x. Usually third-party packages were used, but in August 1994 Microsoft released an add-on package (codenamed Wolverine) which provided limited TCP/IP support in Windows for Workgroups 3.11.
Limited compatibility with the (then-new) 32-bit Windows API used by Windows NT was provided by another add-on package, Win32s. There was a rumor that Microsoft didn't want to increment any mainstream Windows 3.1x version to something like "Windows 3.2" because it could be scrambled with the Win32 API or otherwise distract consumers from upgrading to some 'real 32-bit OS' like the then-upcoming Windows 95 was. In fact, only for the limited Chinese market did Microsoft release a true Windows 3.2 version (see Windows 3.2 section).
Windows 3.x was eventually superseded by Windows 95 and later versions which integrated the MS-DOS and Windows components into a single product.
On 9 July 2008, it was announced that as of 1 November 2008, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 for the embedded devices channel would no longer be made available for OEM distribution.
Other considerations include the fact that MS-DOS does not isolate applications from the hardware and does not protect itself from applications. The memory-resident part of MS-DOS is akin to a library of routines for dealing with disk-type peripherals and loading applications from them; an MS-DOS program is free to do whatever it desires, notably replacing or bypassing part or all of MS-DOS code, temporarily or permanently—Loadlin uses this very method to boot the Linux kernel from DOS. Windows took advantage of this, and the degree to which bypassing is performed increases with most newer releases. Windows 3.1 and its 32-bit Disk Access superseded the BIOS code for accessing disks, while 32-bit File Access of Windows for Workgroups 3.11 bypassed the native MS-DOS code for accessing files. This opened the way for Windows 95's support for Long File Names, which made DOS file code and related 8.3 filename utilities obsolete.
Furthermore, an MS-DOS program running in the Windows environment can take advantage of those features of Windows which are natively unsupported by DOS. An MS-DOS program running on Windows for Workgroups 3.11 automatically uses 32-bit File Access rather than the native MS-DOS file and disk access routines. Similarly, a specially written MS-DOS program running on Windows 95 can access long file names.
Windows NT and its successors represent operating systems completely independent of MS-DOS legacy and their kernel is entirely composed of 32-bit code. MS-DOS (and Windows 3.x) programs run inside virtual DOS machines, which are implemented over the normal system API rather than underlying the system. Alternatively, Windows 3.1x is able to run in emulators such as DOSbox.
Applications that were then exclusively dependent on Windows 3.x have helped fuel the sales of Windows before it became an OS of its own.
If Program Manager is started under Windows XP, it does not appear to run, but when a .grp file created for Windows 3.1 is processed, it converts the .grp file contents to a Start Menu folder.
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Windows 3.1 Versions